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Home » Pacific Northwest » Washington Scenic Drives and Road Trips

Chuckanut Drive

The original Pacific Highway

Mileage19 miles (31 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.36 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.All Seasons
RoadwaysWashington Highway 11
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Mount Vernon, WA, Bellingham, WA, and Sedro Woolley, WA
Rating
3.9 average from 69 votes
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Elevation Graph for Chuckanut Drive

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Hugging the cliffs over Chuckanut and Samish Bay, this drive is sometimes called Washington’s Big Sur. It is one of those drives that if you are in the neighborhood, you have to take it! The road was conceived in 1891 and construction began in 1896. After 1931, this route became mostly a scenic drive.

Bellingham Bay from Chuckanut Drive
Bellingham Bay from Chuckanut Drive

This scenic drive can go in either direction, but we describe it from Burlington towards Bellingham. To start from Burlington via I-5, take exit 231 for WA-11. To start the drive from Bellingham, take exit 250 from I-5, and follow the signs for WA-11.

The drive starts in Skagit County where most of the land is near sea level. As you approach the Colony Creek Bridge (B1), you will start gaining elevation. The Chuckanut Mountains that you will be driving through are actually part of the Cascade Mountains and are the only members of the Cascades to touch the sea. This area has several fossils of prehistoric life.

The remaining drive continues through a winding, two lane, cliffhanger road that provides great views of the San Juan Islands and the bays beneath. Even on rainy northwest days, beautiful sunsets can be seen over the San Juan’s from here. But pay attention to the road and mind your speed; there are many bicyclists and overlooks on this very narrow road.

Larrabee State Park (W1), Washington’s first State Park, has a parking lot on the right. Here, you can take a hike through the forest either to the beach of Samish Bay or through the northern trails of the park.

The winter can be gray for weeks on end, but if you drive up to Cleator Road, it is usually above the cloud line. To get to Cleator road, turn left on Hiline Road and follow the gravel road to the top. From here, there are great views of the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound and there are several trails that start and end here.

This area had an electric train called the Interurban, which was closed in 1929. This route is now the Interurban Trail (H1), a favorite with walkers and bikers and runs about 5 miles from Larrabee State Park to Old Fairhaven Parkway.

Fairhaven Park (H2) has some nice walks along Padden Creek and is a great place for a picnic. If it’s a nice day, kids may enjoy wading in the pond.

The drive ends in Bellingham, where you can continue to follow the WA-11 to I-5. For a longer drive from here, Bellingham is in the middle of The North Cascades Highway and Mount Baker. For something shorter, consider Mosquito Lake Road.

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